It’s the best time of the year... Get planning and planting for your best-ever spring bulb display
Just wait for a roar of approval when your spring display explodes
got great expectations? Now’s the time to do the groundwork to ensure your springtime garden is its most spectacular ever.
Spring-flowering bulbs are the sleeping giants of your garden, so tuck them in now, keep them in the dark and, when the longer days arrive, they’ll wake with a roar.
Plan for a mass choir of daffodils or tulips or get a rousing statement from a tall stand of graceful irises. You can theme your display in one colour and go for a profusion of elegant whites, or opt for two colours with a vibrant clash of purples and oranges.
Or you can create a riot across your front lawn with a cacophony of colour – abandon the restraints of fashion to combine all the textures, colours, stripes and spots of flowering spring bulbs to make a wildflower garden.
Whatever your plan, your garden will keep surprising you week after glorious week from late winter to the end of spring.
HOW TO GROW BULBS
Most bulbs prefer a sunny spot to grow, but shouldn’t be exposed to the fierce western sun. They prefer welldrained soils, but if you have a sandy soil, dig in compost or well-rotted manure to increase organic matter.
If your soil is clay, it’s full of nutrients, but drainage can be a problem. By applying organic matter, you encourage soil organisms that create multiple tiny alleyways for excess water to drain away.
Clear the garden bed and till the soil. Plant bulbs pointy end up at a depth of two or three times their height, and space apart by about two or three times the width of the bulb.
If you’re mixing your bulbs, make a rough estimate of how much space the eventual foliage will need. If the bulbs are too close together, the foliage will get cramped. If they are too far apart, the final drama of the mass blooming can be diminished.
Sprinkle the bed with a slowrelease fertiliser. Producing flowers is the most energydemanding part of a plant’s life and hungry bulbs will produce disappointing blooms. Water regularly to keep the soil moist, but not sodden. Too much water can cause the bulbs to rot.
Tall tulips on the march bring relief after the dark of winter
BULBS FOR SHADE
• Some of the prettiest shade-loving bulbs are snowdrops (Galanthus sp.). They make a delightful dance when planted en masse under a deciduous tree where the grass struggles, and draw up nutrients from the upper soil when the tree is inactive.
• Crocuses come in white, yellow, orange, purple and even spotted. Use them to brighten up a shady spot in your garden. Or show off their pretty little petals against the backdrop of a rockery.
• The tiny, upside-down, urn-shaped flowers of the grape hyacinth come in clusters of white, blue or purple. They’re neat and compact so are perfect for path edges and small enough to sit in front of your mass planting to keep everything in order.
A CUT ABOVE
If you want a vase of cut tulips, pick them before the buds open. Leave foliage in the garden as bulbs need to re-absorb the nutrients. Cut off any other leaves attached to the stem so you don’t spoil the vase water. Snip off a few centimetres of the stem with a sharp knife or scissors and cut at an angle to help the stem absorb more water.
Choose a vase that’s more than half as tall as the tulips, otherwise the stems will wilt over the side and die more quickly. Fill the vase with cold water, not warm, and refresh every day. This way you don’t need to add a floral preservative.
Display the tulips out of direct sunlight and away from direct heat or they will wilt more quickly. Finally, never combine tulips with paperwhite narcissus or daffodils because the latter two exude a substance that will cause the tulips to wilt faster.
The elegant iris rises above the crowd and makes a bold statement with its beautifully patterned petals.
Ranunculi are perky and playful and their layers of colourful and variegated petals make crazy seem perfect. They will give you weeks of vibrant colour to welcome in the change of season.
White grape hyacinth is becoming more popular and the upright clusters of bauble-like blooms make a pretty contrast to the graceful tulips and daffodils.
Be bold with colour by mixing bright yellows, deep purples and vibrant reds with splashes of orange and pink.